An analysis of the characters of Smash Bros Brawl

Wednesday, November 12, 2008


First Appearance: Donkey Kong as 'Jumpman' (1981)

Mario.  The iconic face of video gaming.  Quite possibly the most famous fictitious character in the world, more easily recognized than Mickey Mouse and Bugs Bunny combined.  Mario is the veteran of veterans.  Mr. Game & Watch may be older, but Mario has rescued more princesses, jumped over more obstacles, and charged his way through more video games than any other character in Smash Bros (perhaps in history?).

Mario, of course, has been in all three Smash Bros. to date, and it would be unthinkable not to have him in one.  Like in all games that feature Mario, from Super Mario Bros. 2 to Mario Kart to Mario Tennis, Mario is designed as the 'balanced' character of Smash Bros.  Easy to use and perfect for beginners, he is supposed to be the 'no strengths, no weaknesses' jack of all trades.  Does he live up to this role?

Special Moves:

B: Fireball- 

Besides jumping, this is Mario's most recognizable move.  Mario sends fireballs bouncing along the ground towards his foe.  Annoying, these little balls of fire do not do much damage, but serve to disrupt and discourage his foes.  It is a very basic ranged attack, and a great opener to throw your opponents off guard as Mario comes charging in.

Side B: Cape- You gonna get caped! This move is fantastic, probably the best of Mario's b moves.  In the hands of a master, it is devastating.  Not only can he use it to deal damage, it also reflects projectiles.  Pokeballs reflected in this way actually change ownership, becoming Mario's cute little engines of doom.  Thrown items, weapons, boomerangs, energy attacks, soccer balls, basically anything with the exception of Final Smashes can be reflected in this way.  Finally, the cape is used to turn enemies around, causing no end of disorientation and putting you in a great position to attack from behind.  A true Mario master will learn to use the cape, and use it often.

Up B: Super Jump Punch- At first glance this move seems useful only for recovery, but it actually knocks an opponent quite a bit up and out when they are damaged enough.  I was able to get a few KO's this way, climbing to the top of a stage and punching them so high they disappeared off the top of the screen.  You also steal their lunch money, which, while not offering any mechanical advantage, is a real slap in the face.

Down B: 

F.L.U.D.D- What the heck?  F.L.U.D.D.??  This is where Mario starts to lose points from his former position in the upper ranks of 'average'.  His old down B has been replaced with this monstrosity, a sad attempt at promoting the debacle that was Super Mario Sunshine.  Nintendo, we get it, there was a Mario game for the Gamecube.  Noone liked it.  You've redeemed yourself with Mario Galaxies.  Let the F.L.U.D.D fade into obscurity.  Okay, so how can we make this move useful?  Remember, you have to keep it charged to get the full effect of it.  It does 0 damage but pushes people backwards.  "So what?", you may interject, "they will just jump back." Indeed...but it does have rare uses.  Let's say you are trying to get back to the ledge but Ike is guarding it with a huge sword.  Turn the firehose on him like he was a protesting hippee and you'll clear some safe room to land.  Let's say you are guarding the edge and someone uses their 'up b' move to get back?  Push them away with the F.L.U.D.D.  It doesn't do any damage and therefore they don't get another use of their 'up b'.    That being said, you can be a great Mario player and never use F.L.U.D.D.  Charge it up in case you see an opportunity to use it, but don't stress about it too much.

Move Set Score:   3/5
We have a b, an excellent forward b, a decent up b, and an almost useless down b.  Good job, Mario.  You have an average move set.

Weight: 3/5 
A solid medium weight, as any Mario Kart player could have told you.  After playing Mr. Game & Watch, he seems remarkably resilient, though he is by no means a heavy weight.

Speed: 3/5
Neither slow, nor fast.  Is up B is not particularly acrobatic, though it gets the job done.  Another trick is using the cape to gain a little forward momentum to recover.

Strength: 4/5
Mario's smash attacks are solid.  The addition in Melee of a ball of flame on his fist has given him incredible knockback.  His up smash and down smash are heavy hitting as well, with the down smash having the additional advantage of hitting enemies on both sides of you, great for catching those pesky rolling opponents.  His charging dive his tough to interrupt, and his air attacks are not shabby either.  They are all easy to use and dangerously effective.

Final Smash: 1/5

Here is where Mario falls flat on his face.  Seriously...this move looks awesome and was great fun to watch on the game trailer, but its completely useless.  It is incredibly hard to hit an opponent with it, as Mario stops for a moment to cheer in impotent joy before throwing the flames.  This gives your opponents a chance to jump out of the way..roll out of the way...prepare to sidestep it...this slow moving ball of flame tends to only connect when you throw it into tight corridors that certain levels provide.  If you DO manage to connect you will do a whopping 22 damage and....that's it.  Very rarely, the flames will carry your foes off the screen, which I believe is how the move is supposed to work.  Any halfway intelligent opponent will manage to avoid this, however.  Basically, the game with Mario is to get the smash ball so that no one else can use THEIR final smash.

Closing Thoughts:

On a whole, Mario lives up to his role as the 'average' character.  In fact, if you turn off smash balls in the game options, Mario is a solid character.  Average and above average in everything, he is an easy character to pick up for new players and, with his cape, a rather dangerous opponent in the hands of a seasoned player.  You will soon have people too scared to throw items at you or use projectiles, which is a very big part of a player's attack repetoire.  Sadly, however, Mario's lack of a decent final smash causes him to lose points in the long run.  Still, he's a fun, and iconic character to play, and one that I enjoyed.  Perhaps its just 80's nostalgia, but I always find myself rooting for that plucky little plumber.

Overall Score: 2.8/5

Though numerically average, there is something to be said for Mario's ease of play.  He requires a lot less investment to excel than the lighter weight characters (Mr. Game & Watch) or the more complicated play styles of the more advanced characters (Captain Falcon).

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I'm a French teacher with a penchant for over-thinking things in pop culture, likely stemming from grad school. I over-analyze movies and video games because I no longer have to explicate French novels.